The second round in the battle over how much money schools should get wrapped up Friday. A Travis County District Court judge re-opened the long running equity lawsuit three weeks ago. He wanted to know if recent reforms and funding increases have made a difference.
The case was re-booted after Judge John Dietz had already ruled against the education funding process in Texas. He said it was not adequate and was unfairly distributed among school districts.
This fight began when more than 600 school districts sued after funding was reduced in 2011. State revenue had dropped dramatically because of the great recession, and as a result budgets for most state agencies were slashed. During the first trial and now attorneys for the school districts have argued the funding method is not constitutional. Regardless of the economic rebound and the $3-billion increase lawmakers put into the new education budget- they said it's not working.
"The urgency is greater now than ever to implement the measures that are most critical and most likely to increase student performance, measures like tutoring for struggle students, smaller class size in the elementary grades quality pre k programs for economically disadvantage students. Our schools can do these things, our schools can meet the standards the state has set for them, but they must have the necessary funds," said Plaintiffs attorney John Turner.
In response, Shelley Dahlberg who represents the state continued to argue positive changes have been made and that the system works.
"The education community asked for more money and it was appropriated, they asked for fewer tests, and it was done, they sought more flexibility in the curriculum and the answer was yes, and yet here we in the second phase of the trial and despite receiving much of what they asked for the plaintiff ISDs still claim that these changes don't matter," said Dahlberg.
Judge Dietz did not issue a ruling. He said that will come later this spring. Both sides in the fight have said if they lose, they will appeal the case to the Texas Supreme Court.